Friday, October 26, 2012

Deep Purple Live in Concert 72/73

This DVD is, of course, of the famous Mach 2 version of DP with Gillian & Glover, at the top of their game - just as they have finished recording Machine Head. The '72 show is from Denmark and is the complete concert, and, funnily enough, does not contain what became their biggest hit - "Smoke on the Water", though they open with "Highway Star" - giving that tune the place of prominence. Overall, a great set, though, "Strange Kind of Woman", "Lazy", "Space Truckin'", "Fireball" and more, plus an encore of Little Richard's "Lucille"! Pro shot, but my biggest complaint is that there's not enough focus on Blackmore, but that's just from my guitarist point of view, I'm sure.

This set also includes their "In Concert" performance, which, of course, was just a few songs since they were part of a multi-band TV show. There is a very abbreviated "Strange Kind of Woman" (with the Gillian/Blackmore vocal/guitar trade-off), the by-then hit "Smoke on the Water" and "Space Truckin'". Bonus track is "Burn", from the Mach 3 version of the group (David Cloverdale/ Glen Hughes), taken from the televised California Jam.

All-in-all, a pretty superb set from this quintessential heavy metal/rock'n'roll band!

Johnny Winter Live Through the '70's - DVD

I've wanted to get this DVD for a while and finally found a good deal on it - and boy was it worth it! This shows Johnny as hit first hit big (he had, of course, played for years in Texas before being signed) and it has some fantastic early footage with & without his brother Edgar.

Winter's first album was recorded in 1969, so the footage at the beginning of this DVD shows him during one of his first major tours, with original rhythm section Tommy Shannon on bass and "Uncle" John Turner on drums. This trio created some of his most monstrous blues - nigh energy and still totally heartfelt blues. Here Edgar, looking all of 18 or so (though he was actually in his 20's), joins the band in a formative version of "Frankenstein" (before it had that title) on keys & drums, where he spars with Turner and show what an all-around talent he was - and still is. He comes and goes on this DVD, and adds sax as well as his other instruments to the mix.

There are some funny interviews with an obviously very stoned Johnny on a Detroit cable TV show, where he also jams with his then-bassist Randy Jo Hobbs on "Key to the Highway". Several other great clips from 1970 before moving on to his appearance on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert where he is now sporting a cape, top hat & beard and is far more "rock" and "glam" with "Rock'n'Roll Hootchie Koo" & "Stone County". A cool jam at the Blues Summit in Chicago in '74 includes Dr. John, Michael Bloomfiled, Buddy Miles, Junior Wells and more.

The last footage is from a show in Essen, Germany in 1979 where his bassist, Jon Paris, blows a very credible blues harp, while playing bass, with a weird, glass enclosed contraption. Fittingly, the DVD opens & closes with traditional blues numbers from this amazing guitarist.

Much more footage than I have described and all terrific! Any fan of rockin' blues needs this DVD! Awesome stuff!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Howlin’ Wolf – The Back Door Wolf

In 1973, Howlin’ Wolf had been with Chess Records for nearly 20 years, and when he entered the recording studio for the last time before succumbing to cancer, he was definitely looking backwards as much as forwards. Despite Leonard Chess’ ill-advised idea of adding harpsichord to some tunes (in an effort to “update” the sound and reach more of the younger, white audience), this collection is classic Wolf. Taking musical and lyrical ideas from his own past songs (“How Many More Years” & “Smokestack Lighting” riffs appear, as do lyrics from a number of his own tunes, as well as his hero Charley Patton), Chester Burnett creates a solid piece of blues here.

Of course, the sound and quality is helped immeasurable by his (except for a short stint with Muddy Waters) loyal cohort Hubert Sumlin, the master of the blues guitar, whose playing is impeccable throughout. The rest of the group consisted of Detroit Jr. on keys, James Green or Andrew McMahon on bass and drummer S.P. Leary. Newer tunes include “Coon on the Moon”, an ode to many African-American innovators, and the topical “Watergate Blues”. The sole bonus CD track is an alternative version of “Speak Now Woman” without the harpsichord and with a sensual, stompin’ beat reminiscent of his “Evil”.

While not his best by any means, this is an excellent release by the primal force of nature that is the Wolf. Considering that his illness would take him in just over two years after he left this session, the power of his presence, his voice and his harp playing is nothing short of remarkable. Well worth it!

Little Walter – The Blues World of Little Walter

Little Walter was, of course, the master of the Chicago blues harmonica in the 50’s and was one of the – if not the – innovators of amplified harp. I have written about his genius before, but this comp has some terrific early, comparatively obscure, sides.

While Muddy Waters was at Chess Records, Leonard Chess was initially reluctant to record Muddy’s style of down-home, gut-bucket blues, but when he did and it hit, he was even more reluctant to make any changes to the formula. Thus, Muddy’s live band, while tearing up Chicago clubs with their new, city blues, was not allowed to record with the man himself. Frustrated, Walter went over to Parkway Records, brought several members of the band with him (including Muddy) and gave the world the first taste of this classic group's sound. Chess got word of the defection, though, and had Waters re-record “Rollin’ & Tumblin’” and, with his larger circle of contacts, got the hit himself. But, while almost ignored in their times, these are some spectacular sounds!

This music became the template for the Chicago sound and these cats are at the height of their powers, honed from many hours and many gigs and they work together as an amazing unit. Waters playing is distinctive & creative and it’s always wonderful to hear this man on his guitar. Walter continues to astound with his harp – it is sometimes difficult to believe what he manages to get out of that little pieces of metal and reeds. While not an incredible singer, he still gives a great & passionate performance every time he steps up to the mic.

The show-stopper of the session is certainly the two parts of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” with Muddy’s slide front & center, and the rest of the men shouting, stomping, hollerin’ & moanin’ and Baby Face Leroy Foster drivin’ it along with double-time stomps on the bass drum. Wild & primitive times! While Muddy did a great take for Chess, this is really where it’s at! This would have driven club audiences wild!

Walter also tackles guitar on a couple numbers, freeing up Waters even more and Muddy gives an exceptional solo on “Bad Acting Woman”. The harp is the star of the show for the most part though, and rightfully so!

Funnily enough, the “blues world of Little Walter” includes songs that he was not involved in, but features artists within his “world”! Not that this is a bad thing, just somewhat misleading. But, the cuts by J.B.Lenoir, a superb guitarist, backed by pianist Sunnyland Slim and drummer Alfred “Fat Man” Wallace, do not disappoint! Great blues with style & talent.

Cuts under Sunnyland Slim’s name are also part of this “world” and here he is accompanied by Wallace on drums, Ernest Crawford on bass, Oliver Alcorn on sax and legend Robert Lockwood Jr. on guitar. Slim is a legend in his own right and here he gives two solid performances backed by this stellar band.

All in all, great, great stuff! By far, one of my favorite recent purchases!

Ten Years After - Recorded Live

I know that Ten Years After are far from considered to be cool these days and their excesses are well documented, but I still say that they created some fine blues-based r’n’r and I am continually amazed by Alvin Lee’s blindingly fast riffing. This is the band in a live setting from 4 different European shows in the early 70’s – at the height of their popularity. Supposedly, there are no overdubs and the band it tight as can be, with Alvin in fine voice (he was a helluva blues singer as well as player). The sound is strong – recorded on the Rolling Stones mobile – and similar to other live pieces from the group. Keyboardist Chick Churchill is often drowned out (though does add some tasty organ & piano in places), but rhythm section of Leo Lyons (bass) and brother Ric Lee (drums) hold down the fort as Alvin goes flying into the stratosphere.

Many people have criticized Lee for his “mechanical” playing, but he certainly knows his blues riffs and has no issue with throwing as many out as he possibly can! His knowledge of classical pieces is shown in the aptly-titled “Classical Thing” which segues into his “Scat Thing” before resolving into the sublime “I Can’t Keep From Cryin’ Sometimes”, where he gets a bit jazzier and even gives a nod to “Greensleeves”. He also shows that he can cop the licks of the best of them by tossing out Eric Clapton riffs as easily of “God” himself, with “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Cat’s Squirrel”, “Steppin’ Out”, as well as Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” before showing what he can do himself again in this 15 minute + tour de force. Both Alvin and Chick get to explore their chops in the appropriately-titled “Slow Blues in “C”” (prefaced by some fooling around with country licks) which then blasts into what the audience was waiting for – “I’m Going Home” – the song Lee took from a band called Helicopter (long before The Hellacopters). Made famous by the appearance in the Woodstock movie, this take is pretty similar to the one everyone knows, which I’m sure thrilled the crowd. The boys come back for an encore of their boogie-rock “Choo Choo Mama” and then flee as they realize they have used their allotment of notes for the night!

Again, if you are afraid of “jams”, avoid this one, but if you can dig hearing a well-oiled blues-rock’n’roll machine show off their licks, dynamics and sheer talent with plenty of energy and excitement, this is a solid release.

The Best of Roy Buchanan: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection

Roy Buchanan is known as a guitar giant and respected by greats such as Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck and was once even asked to join the Rolling Stones, though he preferred to remain on his own.  Born in Arkansas and raised outside of Bakersfield, he was heavily influenced by country (apparently starting on steel guitar) before discovering rock’n’roll. He played with many different people (Dale Hawkins and Ronnie Hawkins, among others) before starting his own solo career. While never attaining star status, two of his albums went gold and he was a successful live act until he (reportedly) took his own life after being arrested for public intoxication.

This “best of” set includes many of his most well- known numbers, including “Wayfaring Pilgrim”, “The Messiah Will Come Again” (he attended tent revivals as a child) and his version of Hendrix’s version of “Hey Joe”. At different times, he took on several Hendrix tunes and always acquitted himself nicely, which is a testament to his prowess. As a singer, Buchanan was good but not great, but as a player, he was among the best. His solos can have a sweet delicacy or can blast with intense emotion. They can be slow and moving or blindingly fast. His trademarks included volume and tone bending that he managed with his hands & the guitar knobs and an expertise in controlled harmonics.

His songs are not as memorable as his playing, unfortunately, which is most likely why he did not reach higher fame & fortune. But for those who love to hear what can be done with a block of wood & 6 strings in the hands of a master, this is a great place to start, but pick up any of his albums!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rock and Roll - Gary Glitter Greatest Hits

I know that this man is a scumbag in many ways, but goddam if he didn’t create some amazing 70’s rock’n’roll. As part of his glam period (he had been performing since the 50’s), he hit the charts big time with “Rock and Roll Part Two”, ironically an instrumental version (with some “heys” and such) of a number that he also recorded with lyrics, which, for some reason, didn’t resonate with listeners (also included here). His percussive sound is as unique as Slade’s and has since influenced many. Joan Jett popularized several of his tunes - “Do You Wanna Touch Me” (much more inviting and less creepy when sung by a female), “Hello! Hello! I’m Back Again” and “Doing Alright With the Boys” (also given a whole new meaning by Joan). Many more of his songs have been covered throughout the years, from Brownsville Station to the Human League to Die Toten Hosen. He returns the favor (somewhat) by doing a few covers himself, such as “The Wanderer” & “Baby Please Don’t Go”.

Besides the aforementioned, this set includes the fabulous “I Didn’t Know I Loved You (‘Til I Saw You Rock and Roll)”, the fun 50’s-styled rocker “Always Yours” but also schmaltz such as “Remember Me This Way” and “Oh Yes! You’re Beautiful”, giving the listener an idea of the variety (within his idiom) that he was capable of.

Gary’s style practically defined the over-the-top excesses of the Glitter movement that he named himself after. His outrageous outfits (even more so than Slade’s, if you can believe that!), platform boots and make up made him a glam icon, despite his relative age (over 30 when he hit) and his lack of a rock’n’roll-skinny figure.

Oddly, his first hit has since been co-opted by sporting events – something I find nearly as bizarre as the similar fate of “Blitzkrieg Bop” – so, while being vilified for his heinous proclivities, his musical productions continue to entertain.

Not a perfect collection, and nowhere near complete (only 16 numbers here) but pretty damn cool and certainly worth it if you can find it discounted! 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Legendary Sessions: The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet by Alan Clayson

From the title of this book, I expected something along the lines of the 33-1/3 books - a detailed exploration of this classic Stones album, with behind the scenes information, photos and stories and maybe even some technical information. I love discovering the background behind tunes and lyrics, equipment that was used, who was there, personal insights, etc. Unfortunately, this book has none of that.

This is simply another brief rehash of the Stones career, with occasional, sometimes beleaguered, comparisons of earlier and later songs to those from this album in an attempt to tie everything together. There is actually relatively little about the album itself - certainly no more than any other record that he mentions. Clayson also utilizes numerous British colloquialisms and slang to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to understand what he means - at least to this old man brought up in the mid-west (despite knowing many Englishmen and traveling there). If nothing else, it makes the reading a bit cumbersome, and there are no new revelations of any sort - this is the story that most of us know by heart by now.

If you've read any other book on the group then you can pass this one by. If you're a baby and know nothing about them, you could start here, though I believe there are better introductions. Sorry - just didn't do much for me.

PS - interestingly enough, there seems to be a number of different covers for this tome - the one pictured is not the one that I have and there is at least one other that I have seen. Odd....